Lamb chops in the desert

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The summer months in Dubai can easily be described as hell on earth because the temperatures soar to the high forties and sometimes low fifty degrees Celsius and it becomes the time of the year where families either leave the country or become hermits because being outside is just impossible.

Needless to say, summer is settling in on the UAE and the last few days have been scorching. I am the type of person who is built for winter, Im quite happy being in the Eastern Free State in the depth of winter but I do not fare so well in the summer heat. I tend to feel like Im completely hyper ventilating and this leads to me hiding away in the comfort of my AC. But this is not fair on my toddler who loves being outside no matter the heat, even though as a parent we only let him outside for long periods of time in the early mornings and the late evenings and he hates it. So we set up splash pools in the garden shade (well in what little garden we have) and open a door to make sure he gets a waft of AC.

Yesterday morning was one of those very hot ones and I had resigned myself to an afternoon on the couch and catching up on recorded series when a friend of mine called to say that her and her family where heading out into the desert to find the Oryx pools not far from where we lived. I will admit that I was very reluctant to head out into the scorching desert with a toddler and his two cousins but in the interest of letting them burn off steam, off we went.

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We drove past our usual spot and headed further into the sand than we usually would venture in my KIA Sorento but my little car surprised me again and we zooted through the sandy spots without any trouble. And to my surprise we found ourselves in a little oasis that was truly jaw dropping. In all the years that we have lived in Dubai, we have yet to find such a charming little spot for some R&R and the kids absolutely loved it. Before long the braai was on and the kids were splashing around in the water.  As we settled under the shade of the trees and listened to the bird life around us, it reminded me that us expat often take the UAE for granted and don’t look beyond the sand to find the natural beauty that is waiting over the next sand dune. Or you could land up like some over the other 4×4 vehicles that got themselves very stuck! But it is worth taking the risk because the story and the memories that you make will outweigh the moments of having to push your car out the sand.

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So as the sun set on another weekend in Dubai, we snacked on our lamb choppies and gave thanks that we could share such a lovely moment with our friends and family.

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The truth behind the prefect family photo.

These days you cannot venture on to any social media platform without finding a photograph of one of your friends or families perfect family portrait popping up in your feed. And everyone oohs and aaahs and likes and comments. I will be the first person to raise my hand and say that Im guilty of this as well. We tend to portray the perfect half a second shot as if this is the idyllic life that we live with a well behaved always smiling toddler when in actual fact, nothing can be further from the truth.

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Generally there is someone standing behind the camera, jumping and clowning about to distract our son and making him laugh, while we are just trying to make sure that we don’t look as haggard as we feel. Thankfully most photographers that deal with family photos are so used to this behavior and are well prepared.

Recently we had the privilege of attending my brother in law’s wedding and our son was the ring bearer. The wedding started at the tail end of his nap time so we made sure that we got him in bed for an early nap to preempt any fatigue meltdowns (its called proactive parenting, apparently) and he was in great spirits because he got to wear his new shoes and I naively thought that the day would go down without a hitch. Thankfully the service was in the church on the farm where we live in South Africa and we had been in and out of it all morning making sure the final touches of décor were complete. We walked down the isle with no incident and made it through the gorgeous service with ease.

Half way through the service it started to rain, but like seriously! This, of course, complicates the photography session for after the wedding but none the less they got some stunning photos and then came the time for family photos and it was at this point that our toddler decided that this was the last straw and refused to cooperate, at all! No amount of coaxing or funny faces was going to change his mind, and eventually we had to abandon the idea of having him in any photos, and Im quite sure many that he was in are ruined. But it also reminds us how futile it is actually to try negotiate with a toddler, because in their mind you are the terrorist not the other way around.

The next morning we had our close family members join us back on the farm for a brunch and Easter egg hunt because it was Easter Sunday. It was such an amazing day getting to know family members who I had not met yet and also getting to know the new family from my sister in law’s side. Another amazing experience was having the oldest living Liguori family member present and with my son being the youngest they could finally meet. It also gave us an opportunity to have some proper family photos taken in a more relaxed environment. Of course, Daniel did not cooperate until his Aunt started antics behind the photographer and we finally got a few gorgeous smiles out of him.

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Oops

Thankfully our photographer has a sense of humour and she sent me a lovely before and after photo of Daniel and his melt downs and it was poignant reminder that not everything in life is as rosy as it may seem on facebook!

I wish someone had warned me…

Great piece from a fellow South African mom! Well worth the wonderful read.

Treatmesweetlie

Heaven alone knows why, when I was pregnant, I only and constantly prayed for a successful natural birth. It would be a ritual in my daily prayers to ask the Almighty for a successful pregnancy and a successful natural birth. I was so naive and ignorant. I did not think about after birth. I did not think about nursing. I did not think about my emotions. Seeing all the pictures that mama’s put up of their peaceful sleeping babies made me believe that I was going to master motherhood and ace the transition from being me to being a mama. I was so wrong! There are so many things I did not know.

Before you read any further, I need to mention to you that this was my experience and that as everyone is unique, everyone’s experience is different.I pray that you do not go through what I went…

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That little voice

Daniel

From the day that I found out that I was pregnant with Daniel, I envisaged what he would look like, what kind of nature he would have. Would he take after me or Julian? After he was born, I was so exhausted I don’t think that I even had time to think about taking a shower let alone planning my son’s future. But slowly the baby mist started to clear and we found our rhythm, which was not the easiest of tasks, between our breastfeed woes and my total inexperience which left me feeling totally clueless most of the time. I remember one moment of complete despair and saying to myself, come on you read all those books, you watched the DVDs and you went to the classes, you should be better than this!  I then realized that there is a lot of pressure on first time parents to be perfect, when in actual fact, every first time parent needs as much help as possible.

Before Daniel was born we told our In Laws that we didn’t want any one to fly to Dubai to help us until after Daniel was born because we wanted to have some time to get to know the little guy and to get him into a routine. We were praised for being so independent and mature, and I had no idea what the hell I was thinking! After 2 days in hospital we were allowed home, I had a natural birth (with all the meds possible) and hubby went back to work the next morning. But midday I was a complete mess, I phoned Julian to come home immediately because I had no idea what I was doing at all! How in the name of anything sane did I think that I was going to be able to cope on my own?  By the time hubby got home I was a complete mess, I handed Daniel over to him and I escaped into the bathroom for a good old sob! 10 days later my mom in law arrived, and she brought with her a semblance of sanity. For the first time in days, I actually got a bit of sleep because she helped with the night shifts, as much as Julian wanted to help, he had to be at work at sparrow fart in the mornings and was often off to work before the sun came up.

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Yesterday I read a blog posting by a fellow South African mom who had a list of questions or points about raising a new born that no one had told her and her question was why? Why new moms or even second time around moms or parents in general not talk about how hard it actually is to be a parent. It is, after all, on of the hardest jobs in the world and does not come with a manual even though it is probably one of the most rewarding experiences as well. Yes, it is an experience that I would not forgo but it is also an experience that I am reluctant to repeat. Daniel is now 3 and although we don’t want him to be an only  child we are very hesitant to have another. My hesitation stems from the fact that I was lucky enough that Daniel became a sleeper after about 6 weeks, and it is often something that we take for granted now. As I mentioned before breastfeeding was a complete disaster for the first few weeks and my poor child was just constantly hungry and that is not an experience that I want to subject myself or a newborn to again.

I wouldn’t swop a moment with Daniel, he is a kind, sweet and rudely healthy little guy who has made both my hubby and I enormously happy.

But even after all that, there is that little voice in the back of my head which is starting to get a little bit louder each day, and it is saying that I am being selfish for not providing our son with a sibling and I’m actually starting to listen to it. Does that make me a little crazy? In all honesty I think so!

The perpetual motion of people on the beach

It has been 10 days since I stepped off the plane and recalibrated myself to try take on 2015 with a little bit more gusto than the past 4 months. I had the privilege of spending two weeks in South Africa with my family during the first part of April and I had the pleasure of spending a week a piece in two of my most favourite places. One, of course, being the farm in the Eastern Free State and the second being a tiny little sea side village called Morgan Bay.

Morgan Bay

Morgan Bay

There is nothing quite like the feeling of belonging that over comes you when you arrive home after a long period of absence, even though we are expats, we still call South Africa home. When you arrive on the farm, the moment you turn off the gravel road and drive through the sandstone motor gate your whole body relaxes and all of a sudden all the corporate mess and stress is forgotten and you know that this is that one place in the world where your soul come to rest, your heartbeat slows and your entire being is at peace.

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I am so lucky that I have two places that effect me like this, Morgan Bay was were I spent my Christmas at the tender age of one and a half months old and no matter the trouble or stress I was under it was somewhere I would always miss when I was away. Family gatherings where always an epic affair because most of the family had houses there and it was a place where my Gran’s family had the opportunity to bring all her siblings and their extended family together so Christmas lunches where was a hubbub of activity. It was where I was given a wonderful opportunity to get to know my great grandmother and this time around I gave my son the same opportunity. For a few days we had four generations of family under one roof.

Four Generations

Four Generations

Most mornings were spent enjoy enjoying the beach and enjoying the African sun, one of the most amazing things about the Morgan Bay as a destination is that it has a seemingly endless beach that hugs the coast line, ultimately leading you to the lighthouse with a breath taking view of the ocean. Morgan Bay is a village of generations because, without fail, there are families who have been returning to this mystical place one generation after another. It is one of those places that the moment you leave you want to put your car in reverse or make a U turn. There is nothing quite like sitting on the deck watching the mist roll in over the ocean, or watching the sunset over the dramatic krantzes. For me and many others it is somewhere we call home.

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A few years ago, after the death of my grandfather, my gran decided to retire at Morgan Bay, although Im not sure retire is the right word because she has more of a social life that most twenty somethings I know. We dub her the queen of Morgan Bay because she cant walk 100 meters without knowing who lives where and having a conversation with one person or another but that all comes from spending 68 glorious years holidaying and living in this great place. Some this year she got to show her great grand son off to her friends, who all promptly decided she was far to young to be a great grandmother, in all fairness they are very right. For our family Tippy and Morgan Bay walk hand in hand, there is not one without the other and visiting her is one of the greatest joys of my life and knowing that my son will have not just known her but loved her as much as I have is something truly priceless.

One my last day I fulfilled another one of my bucket list items by galloping a horse across the beach, there is nothing quite a liberating as skimming the edge of the ocean on horseback. It is an experience that I will do again on my next visit because it gave me a different perspective to place that I already loved.

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So here I sit, back in the sandpit, knowing that it will be a year before we head back to the coast again but this is our choice and we live with it because our choice allows us the freedom to make sure that we can find our own spot in the village and I can make sure that my son can start making his own memories of our little slice of paradise.

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Putting the pieces of History back together!

Genealogy-Tree

How many people that you know in your family or friendship group know very little about their ancestral heritage other than who their grandparents were? Or even not who their grandparents were? I have been lucky enough that most of my paternal family trees are diligently traced and drawn up until well before the twelve hundreds, even though it is mostly on my mom’s side of the tree. Thankfully the same can be said for my hubbies family, their Italian heritage is very well cemented on who fits where and how, mainly because the old people where hoarders, not that the English side weren’t but the Liguori’s were prolific. But the great advantage of that is that for generations to come there will be a family tree that can be traced to understand their heritage.

So I waded into the murky depth of genealogy and tracing how my father’s side of the family,  the Brunsdon family arrived in South Africa and how they made their way from Algoa Bay to the small town to Queenstown. Brunsdon is not a very common surname so I didn’t think that it would be a very difficult task, oh boy was I wrong! It was easy enough to find out that Thomas Charles Brunsdon arrived in the Eastern Cape from Gloustershire from the UK and he married in to a very prominent Uitenage family with the surname of Rudman. Thomas and Henriette Rudman had six children, four of which where boys and there the trail goes cold. Somehow from that point the family spread over the Eastern Cape, lived in Jamestown and finally settled in Queenstown. My grandfather, William Daniel Brunsdon, met my gran, Imelda Mombourgh, in the small town of Aberdeen. Of course, Im aware of my great grandparents but the death of my great grandfather at a young age left very little trace of the family history and those who knew the story are long dead and it is the mistake of my youth for not remembering the stories that where told to me by my gran when I was a little girl.

So the focus shifted from the Brunsdon family to my gran’s family, which was also murky but it yielded far more results thanks to living relatives of my gran, some more helpful than others. My gran’s surname was Mombourgh and there is little evidence of their family and that is because my great grandfather was no great shakes at spelling and spelt his last two children’s surname differently from the rest of their brothers and sisters. The family was born and raised in Aberdeen from before the Anglo Boer war, it seems that one of my relatives was a turn coat and was a state witness against one of the boer gorilla units based near Aberdeen to escape prosecution after being caught by a British battalion. http://www.oocities.org/athens/rhodes/1266/historical-rebel.htm

Another turn of events that generally the eldest son in each family was called Daniel and strangely enough my son’s name is Daniel to. My gran was the laat lammetjie of the family so she lost her parents at a very young age and spent the latter part of her childhood being raised by her eldest sister, Faith, affectionately called Bubbles. My great gran, Gwen, grew up in a little town called Komga, ironically this is where I went to primary school and later lived in East London where I went to High School. She moved to Aberdeen to marry her husband, Impi, and is buried there.

In another twist of fate is that after discussing this with my mom in law she interjected with surprise that her father, a Slabbert, was born and raised in Aberdeen as well. And in a town that small it is impossible that the two families did not know each other. It is also a great testament to the interwoven links of the genealogy of the settler history of South Africa and that without of knowledge how we are all connect on some level or another. Im sure that if I was able to spend more time researching the history of these two families I would be able to find more information but finding the time between a toddler and work is rather difficult. In addition to all of this I would welcome any information that might already be recorded.

The histories of the South African families who settler and toiled to make a living from our beautiful country is a tail of bravery and fortitude that should not be allowed to be eroded through time or by politics, it should be celebrated and taught to the new generations because whether they care to realize it or not it is their history to share with their grandchildren one day.

Camping vs Glamping

Beach Camping

Over the past year we have plucked up the courage to take Daniel camping on numerous occasions and it is something that we have come to love doing it as a family over our short weekends. With my hubby working on Saturdays our Fridays are pretty precious at the moment. So heading out into the wilds of the UAE over the weekend has become something that we have bonded over.

I will be totally honest and say that our first trip was a complete disaster and there were a number of reasons for this which included us deciding to camp to early in to the season and it was still totally scorching! The min night time temp was nearly 40 degrees Celsius and we camped out on the beach which meant sand, a whole lot of sand! Our other mistake is that we chose a really popular camping spot which meant a lot of campers with huge 4X4s and motorbikes.  It was only about 3 am before the other campers started settling down and stopped driving past our camp on their dirt bikes.

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Daniel was around 19 months at the time and after the long day he was sticky and sandy and even though we tried to bath the kids. Needless to say that after three hours of sleep and an early sun rise, I had a serious sense of humour failure and by 8am the next morning we were packed up and heading home.

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It took about 6 months before I braved another camping session and I had my terms and conditions for the camp which included no sand, which can be a bit tricky considering we live in a desert after all. Luckily we do have access to a number of the mountainous areas around us which have wadis or an oasis area. And so against my better judgment we went camping again but to appease me hubby said that I could buy new gear the make our lives a little easier. I did just that and turn our normal camp set up in to a bit of a glamping experience. Great new two bedroom tent that we could fit a camping cot in to. A new gazebo so no more sun burn and, of course, new mattresses which is a necessity. The weather was great because we went in the depth of winter and it was even a little bit chilly. We didn’t force the kids to have an afternoon nap so by the time bedtime rolled around, they didn’t even put up a fight. Which meant that mom and dad got to have some down time and a glass of wine or the bottle and still wake up feeling all refreshed for breakfast the next morning.

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To be honest, after our successful camping trip it took another year before we did it again, mainly because we travelled a bit last year and camping in summer is suicide. But in the past three months we have gone twice and we now have a little boy who is asking to go camping every weekend.

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Our latest camp was a more subdued affair with only a few families joining us but it has become our “get out of Dubai time” and we thoroughly enjoy it, even though this time our camp site was raided by a pair of hungry donkeys! I have even learnt a few tricks about making breakfast the next morning, even though hubby has needed to be at work early and I am normally let with dismantling of the camp site, which is no easy feat which a toddler. Luckily our camping spot is just an hour from home and normally by 10 am we are home showered and packed away.

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Living in a country where most environments are completely artificial it was been a breath of fresh air to be able tot find somewhere were our little family can actually go our into the wilderness and be a part of nature. All three of us are farm kids and we often feel stifled by our inability to find a bit of greenery at times. But there is nothing like cracking open a cold one in the depth of the UAE mountains with the wind whistling through the ravines and your family around you!